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Need to Know: Inconsistent Eagles, Redskins meet with NFC East on the line

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Need to Know: Inconsistent Eagles, Redskins meet with NFC East on the line

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 23, three days before the Washington Redskins travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

—How good are the Eagles? Are they as bad as they looked against a couple of mediocre teams in the Bucs and the Lions? Or are they as good as the team that beat the Patriots? Sure, they had some good fortune in Foxborough but that’s a tough place to win under any circumstances. Like the Redskins they have been inconsistent from week to week. But unlike Washington, they haven’t alternated good and bad weeks; they have been streaky. That makes them harder to figure out.

—The Philly defense hasn’t been hard to figure out lately. The Eagles have given up over 400 yards of offense in six of their last seven games. They have been gashed on the ground lately, giving up a combined 382 yards to the Bills and Cardinals. It’s probably too much to hope for the Redskins to get their dormant running game going but the opportunity may be there.

—Eagles QB Sam Bradford had an odd day against the Redskins in Week 4. He only completed 54 percent of his passes but he threw three touchdown passes, averaged 9.6 yards per attempt, and posted a 122.6 passer rating. Cornerback Chris Culliver was hurting but he gamely gave it a go that day but he was ineffective. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews had been slumping before last Sunday with an average of just 30 receiving yards per game in his last five. But he broke out of it with eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Sure, a good chunk of his production came in garbage time, especially a 78-yard TD reception when the Eagles trailed 37-10 in the fourth quarter. But he is still a weapon to watch.

—For a while the Eagles were among the better teams in the NFL in terms of turnover ratio. After nine games they had accumulated a plus-six margin. But in their last five games they have given the ball away 12 times and taken it away just four times. Taking out my handy calculator, that makes them minus-two on the year. The Redskins have been in a bit of a takeaway slump with just one in their last two games after getting six in their two before that. We will see of Washington can get a few takeaways.

—I have no idea what to expect on Saturday. I do think that the Redskins will be ready to play. The win over the Bills was one of the least celebrated in recent memory. The players know that it likely means nothing if they don’t take care of business in Philly. There was much more of a determined atmosphere than a celebratory one. For their part, the Eagles were frustrated after their 23-point loss to the Cardinals. Of course, moods can change over the course of the week and we’ll see how things look when Saturday night rolls around.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 3; Redskins @Cowboys 11; start of NFL playoffs 17

In case you missed it

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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTuneshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!